Honouring a loved one: Laws on scattering ashes in the UK

After a cremation has taken place, you may decide to scatter the ashes of your loved one in a sentimental area. This can be a location that the deceased may have expressed a preference for before their passing, or somewhere you may have a personal connection with the person who died. No matter where you choose, from a mountaintop to the sea, it’s important to be aware of the laws surrounding scattering ashes in the area you have chosen.

If the task of giving your loved one the send-off they deserve rests with you, keep reading as we delve into the various laws surrounding scattering ashes to ensure you do so in a way that respects the environment, the public and all relevant regulations. Learn what options are available to you when it comes to choosing a certain place for the remains to rest with help from Heart of England Co-op Funerals.

Can you scatter ashes without permission?

There are many locations in the UK where you can choose to scatter the ashes of a loved one without permission, however, there are certain areas where you may need prior authorisation from a landowner or local authority. Whether you choose to scatter ashes at sea, in a local park or in your loved one’s favourite sports stadium, most landowners will be more than accommodating to your wishes as long as you ask permission prior to the scattering and follow their guidelines.

Where can you legally scatter ashes in the UK?

As mentioned above, there are many places you can choose to scatter a loved one’s remains with consent from local authorities. The place you choose to legally scatter ashes is all down to the personal preferences of the family or the wishes outlined in the will prior to death. Below, we have outlined some of the most popular places for scattering remains and the rules that come with them.

Scattering ashes at home

Many people may choose to scatter ashes in their own gardens or plant a tree, bush or flowers along with the ashes to create a lasting reminder of that person. If you are a homeowner, then you can do this without permission, however, if you are renting the property, you would need permission from the landowner. It’s important to keep in mind that, while scattering ashes in your own garden is a great way to keep them close by for now, if you ever leave this property, you may not be able to revisit this site in the future.

Scattering ashes at sea 

Many people choose to scatter ashes at sea or in a river as a peaceful send-off to their loved one. You do not need permission to scatter remains over water, however, it is advised that you follow Environment Agency guidelines to ensure you are not harming the local habitats or ecosystems, or causing water pollution. These guidelines include:

  • Ashes shouldn’t be scattered near any buildings, marinas or places where people may be bathing 
  • The water location you choose should be more than 1 km upstream of anywhere water is pumped or collected
  • Ashes should be spread as close to the surface of the water as possible and should be avoided on windy days so the ashes don’t blow away and affect people nearby
  • Don’t place any personal items or flowers into the water along with the ashes that may pollute the water.

Scattering ashes in parks or any green space

If your loved one had a particular park, field or hiking trail they loved and you wish to spread some of their ashes here, you will need to request permission from local authorities. Most councils and park trusts will allow you to scatter ashes here as long as environmental guidelines are followed. These locations can be particularly beautiful, especially for loved ones to come back and visit in the future.

Scattering ashes in a cemetery

Some people may wish to have their ashes scattered in a cemetery where fellow loved ones may already be buried. This is a common choice for many families and is often included in the funeral wishes of a will, however, not all cemeteries allow ashes to be scattered. If you already own a plot of land in the cemetery, you should be able to scatter the ashes, but should still check with the relevant authority about permissions.

Can I scatter ashes on a beach?

Whether it be from a cliff top overlooking the beach or on the sand itself, scattering your loved one’s ashes at the beach can be beautiful. Most beaches in the UK let ashes be scattered across the sand, rocks and water without permission so long as you choose a quiet time of day when the ashes will not affect anyone else on the beach. 

When the weather is right, casting the ashes into the wind at the beach or burying them in a shallow hole in the sand to then be swept away into the sea can be a peaceful and sentimental way to honour your loved one. 

Do you need a death certificate to scatter ashes?

If you wish to scatter ashes within the UK then a death certificate is not required. As long as you are in possession of the remains yourself, you have the power to make the decisions on if, when and where the ashes may be scattered. However, if you wish to take the ashes abroad to scatter them in another part of the world then you will need a certified copy of the death certificate, the cremation certificate and a letter that confirms the urn you are travelling with only contains ashes.

To make travelling with ashes as straightforward as possible you should store them in a non-metallic container in your hand luggage and speak to the airline in advance to see if they have any specific regulations surrounding carrying ashes. It may also be a good idea to contact officials of the country you’re travelling to, to see if there are any specific laws on scattering ashes in their country. 

Get support in honouring your loved one with Heart of England Co-op Funerals

If you’re searching for more ideas on how to honour your loved one’s remains, head over to our ‘what to do with ashes after cremation’ blog. Alternatively, if you have any questions surrounding cremation or arranging a funeral, get in touch with one of our friendly funeral directors today.